Although only a newly formed crew going into the Etchells Australian Championship, Bertrand’s crew, representing Victoria, won the series with a race to spare, competing against several of those they will face again on the start line of the Royal Brighton Yacht Club hosted Worlds.
Bertrand and his quality crew will have to be at their best to overcome their adversaries. The Etchells class is renowned for gathering the world’s pre-eminent sailors; champions from across a variety of classes.
Apart from their Etchells expertise, these sailors come from America’s Cup, Olympic, one-design, match racing, big boat, skiff and sports boat backgrounds.
Among the Audi Etchells Worlds front runners who will sail on Port Phillip, one of Australia’s toughest waterways, are two-time winners from past Etchells Worlds’, John Savage (1979 and 1988) and Stuart Childerley (2001 and 2002).
The Savage crew, from Melbourne, comprises a prominent Dragon keelboat sailor Wayne Johnstone, along with a shipwright who has made his name on the IRC grand prix circuit, JP Macquet.
Childerley is a two-time Olympic Finn representative (he finished fourth both times), Admiral’s Cup sailor and a big name in various sailing classes since the 1980s, He will be crewed by friends Robert Elliott and Sam Richmond.
“We have done several events since last September, including winning the British and Irish National titles. Hopefully by the end of the Worlds, Robert and Sam will have learnt from a few of my better attributes - and we will have had a enjoyable week sailing against some of the best sailors in the world – I’m sure it will be a great event. We’re really looking forward to the Worlds and will be endeavouring to be competitive against an extremely strong field.”
However, Childerley concedes: “It has been fascinating watching the Aussie Nationals and I sense there won't be too many changes in the top five at the Worlds with the addition of Jud Smith. One thing is for sure - as ever, the racing will be tight and you simply cannot get better racing. Frankly, this would put any competitive team in the right frame of mind to turn up and battle away to the end.”
As Childerley states, Jud Smith will be one of the biggest threats. Going by past performances, the 2006 Worlds winner has a strong track record with second places in 2007, 2003, 1996, 1994 and 1986 and a third place last year, making his crew a force to be reckoned with.
Smith, an American who this time around will sail for Australia where he qualified for these Words, will be crewed by Mark Johnson and Nik Burfoot, whom he won the 2008 Etchells North American’s with. Johnson, from Sydney, is a solid Etchells skipper in his own right, while Burfoot, a New Zealander who spends a lot of time in Sydney, has previously campaigned for Laser and Finn Olympic representation.
The 2006 Australian Etchells champion, Skip Lissiman, has also put together a youthful but solid all-West Australian crew of Andy Fethers, Tessa Parkinson and Keith Swinton.
Lissiman is perhaps best remembered for his role aboard Australia II in winning the America’s Cup under the leadership of rival for the Audi Etchells Worlds, John Bertrand.
Fethers has also represented Australia in the America’s Cup as part of James Spithill's crew. Parkinson won Gold in the 470 dinghy at the Beijing Olympic Games and Swinton is a young hot match racing skipper who joined the professional circuit last year.
“We are going there to win,” states Lissiman, whose premature start in one race and a disqualification in another cost him a podium place at the 2009 Nationals in which they subsequently finished 11th. It’s like any event; you do the best you can. We were quick in Adelaide. Although the boat is 18 years old, she’s still quick and we know the boat well."
Quantifying his belief they can win, Lissiman says: “Apart from this year, we’ve never finished outside the top 10 at a Nationals.”
The West Australian knows how difficult the competition will be to overcome. “I was told I was too aggressive - I’ve never thought of myself that way - I guess after what happened at the Nationals I’ll have to take that onboard for the Worlds,” he mused.
85+ entries from Victoria, Sydney, South Australia, Queensland and Western Australia will compete at the Audi Etchells Worlds, with entries from Great Britain, Bermuda, USA, New Zealand, Ireland, Hong Kong and Italy in what is sure to be a clash of the titans.
To be held from 5-14 March, following registration and measurement days, nine windward/leeward races are scheduled commencing on 9 March.
The Etchells World Championship Perpetual Trophy will be awarded to the overall winner of the Championship which is organised by the Melbourne Etchells Fleet, in conjunction with the Royal Brighton Yacht Club.